The Dallas Mavericks play host to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, looking to climb back above .500 for the season. Kobe Bryant has missed the past two games for the Lakers as he nurses an injured back, and while his goal is to play against the Mavs, no formal announcement has been made.
The Lakers, currently on a three-game skid, sit at 1-7 on the season and tied for last place in the Western Conference with the New Orleans Pelicans. Dallas has already handed the Lakers one loss this season, can they make it two?
What happened the first time?
Dallas defeated the Lakers 103-93 in Los Angeles thanks to a 25-point, nine rebound effort from Dirk and a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double from Zaza Pachulia. Julius Randle scored 22 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for the Lakers, while Kobe shot 3-for-15 from the floor and generally halted any offensive rhythm the Lakers tried to have. Dallas jumped out to an early double-digit lead, never looking back as they cruised to a victory.
The Dallas win moved the Mavs to 2-1 on the season, while keeping the Lakers winless at 0-3.
What do the Mavericks need to do to be successful against the Lakers?
As crazy as it may sound, let Kobe shoot (if he plays). The aging superstar is shooting just 32 percent from the floor this season, an abysmal percentage for the career 45.1 percent shooter, and just 20.8 percent from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, Dallas will need an answer for Julius Randle, who is tearing it up in what is essentially his rookie season. Forcing the ball out of Randle's hands and cleaning up on the boards will be two big reasons why the Mavericks come away with a win.
What Lakers player might have a big game?
The logical answer here is Julius Randle, but I'm going to go with D'Angelo Russell. Russell has had a relatively slow start to his rookie year (by 2nd overall pick standards), but he's been a solid contributor who takes care of the ball. It's not his fault that a lot of his passes die when they reach Kobe's hands, and he had a good outing against Orlando on Wednesday, scoring 14 points, and handing out six assists, while only turning the ball over once.
Aging Dirk > Aging Kobe
It's astonishing to me how quickly it seems Kobe's shot has deserted him. Sure, he was always a guy to rely on his athleticism, but his shot was a thing of beauty. However, this is the fourth consecutive season he's seen a dip in his shooting percentage (46.3 percent in 2011 to 32 percent this year). Sure, injury probably has quite a bit to do with it, but Dirk has had his fair share of injuries over the past few seasons as well. Dirk's shooting percentage over the past four seasons has fluctuated between 45 percent and a ridiculous 55 percent to begin this season. Maybe it's because Dirk never relied on superior athleticism, so he's still playing the game he's always played (albeit a step slower sometimes). Regardless of the reason, it's quite nice to see our aging superstar still capable of being a devastating force on the court, while the one in purple and gold is fading quickly into the night.
Where and when to watch
Time: 7:30 p.m. Central
Where: American Airlines Center
TV: Fox Sports Southwest